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“These samples were taken from before drugs were around … so they represent early TB,” said McNerney, who is not connected to the mummy research. “If we can pin down areas in the DNA of these mummies and see how they differ from modern (DNA), it might help us understand why modern TB drug resistance is developing.”

Forensic expert Agnes Kustar has been working on the facial reconstruction of one of the most striking mummies in the lot _ Baroness Antonia Tauber.

She was a nun descended from a prominent family, had a pronounced humpback and suffered from tuberculosis. Contemporary records describe the baroness as an excellent teacher _ `zealous and loveable, a kind soul.’

To carry out facial reconstruction, experts need a detailed CT scan of the mummy, which gives a 3D picture of the skull. It can then be transformed into a plastic model identical to the original face.

This mummy has a special place in the hearts of the team.

“She has become a familiar person to us,” said Kustar. “We were able to get to know her face and through it her whole personality.”